The U.S. Senate today passed by a 70-28 margin a $15 billion jobs bill that would extend the nation's surface transportation program through the end of the year.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said "today, 70 senators voted 'aye' and recognized the need to put jobs over politics."
Before we get all dewy-eyed, remember that the House's jobs bill, passed in a straight-line party vote in December, was a $75 billion measure that had another huge round of stimulus funding for highway, bridge and transit projects. The Senate bill effectively keeps the nation's transportation programs limping along at last year's spending levels (minus stimulus round 1) and puts off -- again -- the business of enacting a sensible long-term transportation bill to replace the one that expired Sept. 30.
Now the House and Senate bills must be reconciled. Here's the AP's initial take: "The 70-28 vote sends the bill back to the House, which passed a far more costly measure in December. Many in the House consider the Senate bill too puny, but they may simply adopt it and send it to Obama in order to get a win. Democratic leaders promise more so-called jobs bills are on the way.
"It’s the first major bill to pass the Senate since the Christmas Eve passage of a deeply controversial health care bill ..."
The current extension of the federal transportation law called SAFETEA-LU expires on Sunday. If Congress fails to agree on an extension, the federal transportation bureaucracy will shut down.